Published on: April 15, 2009MNB
had a story yesterday about how Ahold-owned Stop & Shop is testing the use of hand-held scanning technology - which allows shoppers to scan products as they place them in their shopping carts, keep a running total and then pay at the end without going through a traditional checkout line.
I commented, in part:Is it just me, or does it occur to anyone that this so-called “new” technology has been around so long that it doesn’t quite deserve to be called “new” anymore?
Now, I’ve seen this kind of technology work; at Delhaize-owned Bloom, for example, it is part of the overall package and makes sense in terms of the technology-driven approach being used for that particular format. And, by the way, they’ve been using it at Bloom for years.
At Ahold and Stop & Shop, the questions they should be asking themselves include:
• Are these devices being used as a tactic or as a strategy? (The right answer is “tactic.”)
• What is the broader strategic vision for Stop & Shop that these devices serve?
• If it is such a winner, why is the technology not in every Stop & Shop?
Here’s what I think. These hand-held scanning devices promise speed, and it is debatable whether they really provide it. But I don't think it matters. I think what the consumer really wants, far more than speed, is access to a transparent information flow that gives broader and deeper knowledge about the products that people are thinking about buying.
And even though an awful lot of stores don't have this technology, it somehow just feels old to me … and not representative of a strategic, long-range approach to food retailing.
Got a lot of response to this…MNB
user Paul Schlossberg wrote:I encountered hand-held scanners for the first time early in 1998 at Ahold's Albert Hein store - in Haarlem (The Netherlands). More than 10 years ago.
This is not new - even if it is in the news. Retailers here are still evaluating this "revolutionary" new technology. This is simple. It's about saving time for the customers you serve. Shoppers will reward retailers delivering on "value" with repeat purchases - more frequent visits and a bigger share of dollars spent. Value is more than a singular dimension - low prices. Another element of value is "saving time."
Are there shrink-control issues to be managed? Absolutely. Test it! Find out what works and what doesn't. Not being willing to test new ways to serve shoppers says a lot, It shows which retailers will survive and prosper - and clearly indicates those headed for the "irrelevant" list.
I live in the ex-urbs, about 60 miles north of NYC. Two of the four supermarket chains in our area have self-checkout. The other two do not. On a fill-in shopping trip, needing only a few items, I'm more likely to go to one of the chains offering self-checkout. The time saved is meaningful - even if the products at one chain tend to be more expensive.MNB
user Tom DeMott wrote:These handheld devices started in Europe around 1998, so Ahold should be celebrating their 11th anniversary.MNB
user Mike Griswold wrote:The debate will be a store device versus the shoppers existing mobile device. I believe the future will be communicating with the shopper on their device and as technology expands to include near field communication and the ability to turn your mobile phone camera into a scanner, the value of a store specific device becomes less and less.
user wrote:It is my understanding that this is a transitional technology that will eventually lead to the cell phone as the primary hand held shopping device. As hand held phones become smarter, and 3G and 4G give us more bandwidth, they can read purchases and display information that the shelf tag may contain... recipes, meal ensembles, wines for the meal, other deals of pet products if dog food is scanned, etc. The shopper would scan her purchases, download the data at the check out and the phone would “pay” using her credit card or phone company account. I believe this model is most advanced in South Korea where it is said that Korean teen girls may be the most sophisticated shoppers in the world. There they use their phones in malls , grocery stores and vending machines to scan, get information, and pay.
We are probably a few years away from this in the US as cell phone sophistication evolves. It will also require that Americans are OK with their cell phones as their primary screen. A walk down the streets of New York, in any major mall, or airport would tell me that there are quite a few people who seem very comfortable with their Blackberrys/Treos/iPhones as the device of choice. I agree that the hand held device as another new piece of technology is probably doomed. But seen as an extension of an already established behavior, it makes some more sense.
user wrote:I love the hand held scanners at Stop & Shop! You can bag your own groceries and make sure the bread doesn't get squished. You can even scan produce after weighing it and printing a bar code sticker. It's great to be able to see what you have 'spent' in your shopping cart while you're still shopping. All while you're checking to make sure the prices ring up correctly. Who wants to wait in line to check out when you don't have to? In this past faced lifestyle, who wants to wait at all? Checking out was the worst part of grocery shopping, now it's a breeze!
user Jon Kramer wrote:The Modiv Media device is much more than merely a scanner. It provides the ability to order remotely from the Deli, and by tying into frequent shopper card data, offers shopper discounts on brands and categories they purchase. As such it is an all around “shopper solutions tool.”
After quite a few years of testing, the Modiv devise is now rolling out more broadly. In a recent trip to Stop & Shop, in conversations with the store manager, he indicated the only problem was he did not have enough scanners.
In speaking with shoppers they seem to really appreciate both the functionality and information provided.
Maybe. But I remain skeptical…and cannot shake the feeling that this is dated technology.
It was reported yesterday that Anheuser-Busch InBev may be considering the sale of its Rolling Rock brand, which has seen sales drop 13 percent since 2004, which is ironic since Anheuser bought Rolling Rock from InBev for $82 million three years ago, long before InBev bought Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion in 2008.
My comment:It’s funny…I used to drink Rolling Rock, but over the years have switched to other brands, like Landshark, which is my current favorite among lighter US brews. (Also an A-B brand, by the way.)
Whether it is owned by A-B or sold to someone else, the owners have to remind people like me why I liked Rolling Rock, and rekindle a kind of emotional connection. Not easy, but it’s a lot easier to make that connection with a beer than with, say, Brussels sprouts.
user responded:My husband and I were long-time, die-hard fans of Rolling Rock Beer. Wherever we relocated, we insisted the local distributor carry it for us. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why sales are dropping. AB took a locally brewed beer - the pride of Latrobe, PA - closed the plant and transferred operations to Newark NJ. Somehow, Newark NJ does not conjure up the same vision of mountain spring water from "the Laurel Highlands" of Latrobe, PA. Yuengling, the oldest brewery in the US, family owned and local to Pottsville, PA, is now our beer of choice.MNB
user Tim Heyman agreed:Rolling Rock was a unique beer, small brewery, hand crafted in the Hills and from the rolling springs of Latrobe PA.
Now it’s mass produced with the waters of where, New Jersey!
They buy the brand, shut down the brewery, and put how many people out of careers/livelihoods. Those who drank it for decades know exactly what happened and now choose not to drink Rolling Rock.
user Chris Esposito chimed in:I’ve met a lot of people from Western, PA (mainly the Pittsburgh and surrounding area) who unanimously stated that once A-B bough the brand and moved it from Latrobe to Newark, they stopped drinking it (now they seem to drink Yuengling). Also, knowing a lot of “beer geeks”, home brewers and individuals in the craft beer industry, I can say that a lot of people also viewed the purchase by A-B as destroying the individuality of the brand, kind of like when A-B made an investment in Redhook (or Budhook as people then called it). Rightly or wrongly, there is a perception of the artisan quality to small breweries that people like and that gets lost when these small breweries are gobbled up by the large conglomerates. I think this also is evident when these large breweries produce “micro” brews under new names and don’t disclose the owner of the brand (such as in Coors' Blue Moon label or A-B’s Shock Top). To me, the smaller, regional brewers (Brooklyn, Harpoon, Dog Fish, etc.), make great products and I hope they stay independent. One only has to look at how Miller ruined the Celis label to realize what can happen.
Still another MNB
user wrote:I remember why I drank Rolling Rock in college…… 3/$1 at Ronnie’s Suburban Inn outside Rochester, NY. Couldn’t beat that price with a stick!
yesterday took note of two prominent deaths: Harry Kalas, the longtime broadcaster for the Philadelphia Phillies, who died yesterday at age 73, and Mark Fidrych, the colorful and idiosyncratic pitcher who became nationally known when he played for the Detroit Tigers in 1976, who died in an accident at age 54.
But one of the reasons I am passionately in love with the MNB
audience is that I got the following email:I was surprised you didn’t mention the passing of Marilyn Chambers. I thought you thrived on controversy.
You’re right…I saw the obituaries written for the star of the porn classic “Behind The Green Door,” who died at age 56, but I neglected to include a mention in MNB
Shame on me.
Chambers actually had a connection to the food retailing business – at the same time “Green Door” came out, she also was featured as the mom, cuddling a cute baby, on boxes of Procter & Gamble’s Ivory Snow detergent, which generated both ticket sales for the movie and sales for the detergent. (P&G changed the box graphic pretty quickly.)
It was the early seventies, a long time ago, a time when porn sort of emerged from the closet and achieved a certain level of notoriety, with the success of three films – “Green Door,” “The Devil & Miss Jones,” and, of course, “Deep Throat.”
Seems like an entirely different world, doesn’t it?